the other night on the train i finished my book du jour, wicked, & discovered that there were discussion group questions in the back. without reading them, i decided that it might be fun to try to answer them, to give my genuine first responses to them. i confess to having a preconcieved notion that all these questions will be mega-lame.
1. Gregory Maguire fashioned the name of Elphaba (pronounced EL-fa-ba) from the initials of the author of The Wizard of Oz, Lyman Frank Baum-L-F-B-Elphaba. Wicked derives some of its power from the popularity of its source material. Does meeting up with familiar characters and famous fictional situations require more patience and effort on the part of the reader, or less?
its got its pros & cons (like a whorehouse in the back of a casino). recycling the baum characters means that there is a totally diffrent kind of suspension of disbelief required- a sort of nestled program, where it assumes that your childhood had the wizard of oz in it, & thus you are able to instantly accept the reality of oz, but also that you can accept this new view point, the new wicked witch viewpoint.
there is also the matter of some baggage- i mean, if you know shit at all about baum's book, you know it was more allegory than myth. so in reading wicked, people are going to be looking for some kind of veiled political statement. which isn't so present, i don't think. but that suspicion, that c.s. lewis like paranoia (wait a minute, that lion is supposed to be fucking jesus!) haunts the prose.
2. Wicked flips the Oz we knew from the classic movie on its head. To what extent does Maguire's vision of Oz contradict the Oz we're familiar with? How have Dorothy and the other characters changed or remained the same? Has Wicked changed your conception of the original? If so, how?
well, i never have been too attached to the original, so i guess my conception wasn't such a big deal coming in? though to be honest, i was expecting this novel to be more "behind the scenes" & less "alternate version." i mean, this wicked witch never got so wicked! she never even yelled anything like "have some fire, scarecrow!" or "i'll get you my pretty! & your little dog too!"
as for the contradictions- well, the dorothy/tin man/scarecrow/lion bunch hardly shows up. dorothy being a big husky farm girl was fairly funny. lion being some kind of medical experiment wasn't so great, i don't think- him being cowardly was already the gimmick. oz was a bit of a contradiction, less bumbling old charlatan. the munchkinlanders as a whole were also a let down...where were the lollypop gang?
3. The novel opens with a scene in which the Witch overhears Dorothy, the Lion, the Scarecrow, and the Tin Woodman gossiping about her. She's "possessed by demons," they say. "She was castrated at birth . . . she was an abused child . . . she's a dangerous tyrant." How does this scene set the stage for the story, and what themes does it introduce?
okay, now the questions begin to get super lame. what fucking themes do you think it introduces? what am i, in sixth grade? i hate discussions of themes. my goodness, themese of abandonment? oh my, ostracism? fuck that shit. themes are basically lame sugar-coated summaries of something only partially understood. people who talk about themes are fuckers; they enjoy girly drinks & anal fisting.
4. What is the significance of Elphaba's green skin? What are the rewards of being so different, and what are the drawbacks? In Oz -- and in the real world -- what are the meanings associated with the color green, and are any of them pertinent to Elphaba's character?
i refuse to answer this question on the grounds that nothing clever could possibly be said about it. i mean- this is a sort of raise your hands in class & feel good about yourself question! "uh....envy?" "why yes susan, thats very good, gold star!"
especially because, honestly? when you get right down to it, in the nitty gritty, brass tacks, in the blood & the beer? she's fucking green because she's green in the movie.
5. One of Wicked's key themes is the nature and roots of evil. What are the theories that Maguire sets out? Is Elphaba evil? Are her actions evil? Is there such a thing as evil, a free-floating power in the universe like time or gravity? Or is evil an attribute of the actions of human beings? (Hint: Turn to pages 231 and 370 for scenes that will draw you into the conversation.)
yeah, i know that this book is supposed to be about that. but other than those two scenes, what the fuck? it isn't really about evil at all! or maybe i just take moral relativism for granted? maybe a lot of the "is evil real?" subtext was ignored by yours truely? isn't questioning evil something everybody stopped doing? i thought that was the joke, right? calling it "wicked?"
6. Discuss the importance of the Clock of the Time Dragon. Does the Clock simply reflect events, or does it shape them? Why is it significant that Elphaba was born inside it? That Turtle Heart was killed by it? What revelations does it offer to Elphaba and the reader when she reencounters it at the end of the book?
well thats a fucking mystery, ain't it? i'm going to say it is reflective only, insofar as the whole passion play of ephalba's life was left without a third act because it hadn't happened yet. as for the rest of the questions, thats all piddle. dog-piss! because they are the plot, stretching the fabric of the story.
7. The first section of the book ends powerfully but enigmatically when the young Elphaba is discovered under the dock, cradled in the paws of a magical beast as if sitting on a throne. How do you interpret this scene, and what do you think it foretells, if anything?
um, the Beast & the Dragon? all shades of revelations.
8. The place of Animals in society is an important theme in Wicked. Why does Elphaba make it her mission to fight for Animal rights? How else does social class define Oz, and why?
do these fuckers intend to use theme in every possible permutation? now they ain't talking about motiffs, they're talking about theme as in like, a topic or subject! this is getting annoying.
the witch looks funny, people treat her poor. she projects her feelings onto the issue of Animal rights. & doesn't hurt that she likes that Goat, neither. anyhow, social class otherwise? well, you've got all the outlying provinces from the emerald city, the weird seduction of glinda, blah blah blah.
9. [Galinda] reasoned that because she was beautiful she was significant, though what she signified, and to whom, was not clear to her yet" (page 65). Discuss the transformation of Galinda, shallow Shiz student, to Glinda the Good Witch. How does she change -- and by how much? What is her eventual "significance," both in Oz and in the story?
she gets smart? but she's still a bitch. she's okay for a minute in college, but it turns out that was just the influence of her friends. she's the girl who was a bitch in high school & turns into a bitch as soon as she's out of college & married. fuck glinda. maybe she was under the mindfuck of the headmistress? but she could have at least been less aggravating.
10. Discuss the ways in which Elphaba's determination and willfulness lend purpose and order to her life, and the cost of being such a strong character. Elphaba isn't the only strong female character in Wicked. How do Nessarose, Glinda, and Sarima deal with the issues of power and control? Where do each of them draw strength from? Is the world of Maguire's Oz more or less patriarchal than millennial America?
what? first off, elphaba isn't so much a strong character as a giant wreck. "oh oh i'm such a martyr i have to leave!" is called melodrama, not strength of character. she's not so bad, admittedly, but she's a total failure. when she's a little girl she has promise, but she's soon just as damned as the rest of the lot.
anyhow, turning the rest of it into some battle of the sexes thing is retarded,
11. Wicked is an epic story, built along the lines of a Shakespearean or Greek tragedy, in which the seeds of Elphaba's destiny are all sown early in the novel. How much of Elphaba's career is predestined, and how much choice does she have? Do you think that she was no more than a puppet of the Wizard or Madame Morrible, as she fears?
the morrible thing has some merit, but i think yackle is a more likely candidate for string pulling. as far as i can tell, her fate was mostly set when she was born allergic to fucking water. who doesn't see her melting coming from a mile away? anyhow, what destiny are they talking about? i mean, she's got a pretty decent weave of life going on. to point at any one moment would be silly- it was a constant culmination. there is no tiresius telling her "don't fuck your mom, dude!" or whatever.
12. Early in their unlikely friendship, Galinda catches a glimpse of Elphaba and thinks she "looked like something between an animal and an Animal, like something more than life but not quite Life" (pages 78-79). Discuss the dual, and sometimes contradictory, nature of Elphaba's character. Why does Elphaba insist that she doesn't have a soul?
ephalba is a sociopath who cultivates the illusion of guilt. to herself & others.
13. Who or what is Yackle? Where does she appear in the story, and what role does she serve in Elphaba's life? Is she good or evil -- both or neither?
i guess she's the kumbric witch? is the kumbric witch some part of baum's greater story? or is it just an invention of maguire? she's pivotal in a really well done way- she pushed people just slightly, at just the right time, & just at the fringes. in fact, she doesn't meddle with the actual person she's effecting very much at all- ephalba only meets her when she's had her mental breakdown in the nunnery.
14. Was Elphaba's story essentially a tragedy or a triumph? Did she fail at every major endeavor, and thus fail at life; or because she refused to give up or change to suit the opinions of others, was her life a success? Is there a possibility that Dorothy's "baptismal splash" redeemed Elphaba on her deathbed, or was this the final indignity in a life of miserable mistakes?
sound & fury or out with a whimper, it still signifies nothing.